Arms of Echsenbach, Austria

Echsenbach

In use since 1795

Blazon: Or two ox heads eradicated respectant; pointé in base gules two ears of wheat crosswise surmounted by a pine branch fesswise argent

I… did not get “oxen” out of those animals. My first thought was maybe goats? The one on the sinister side doesn’t look too great – is that where its eye is supposed to be? Anyway. There’s the possibility these are roughly canting charges, with “Ochsen” (oxen) bearing a superficial similarity to “Echsen.” The wheat is evidently supposed to symbolize agriculture, unsurprisingly.

Arms of Almonacid del Marquesado, Spain

Almonacid del Marquesado

Granted 1997

Blazon: Per pale argent a cross of Santiago gules and vert three sheaves of wheat conjoined in pile or; pointé in base of the second two bells in fess of the first

I can’t find any proof that the town ever belonged to the Order of Santiago, but the dexter half of the shield makes me suspect it did. I presume the wheat is an agricultural reference, but that’s not the interesting part. The interesting part are the tiny little cowbells. I have to assume that they’re a reference to the colorful local festival of La Endiablada, where “devils” dance through the streets with wild costumes and cowbells. According to legend, there was a dispute between Almonacid and another town over a buried image of St. Blaise that was found between the two towns. The rights were apparently going to be determined through a tug-of-war between two teams of animals. The other town brought several strong oxen, but Almonacid only had a couple scrawny mules. However, the oxen refused to pull for the other town and instead came over to Almonacid’s side. In memory of this reputed miracle, the celebrants of La Endiablada carry cowbells.

Arms of Alcalá de la Vega, Spain

Alcala de la Vega

In use since at least 2010

Blazon: Gules a tower or within a bordure azure charged with four trees proper; pointé in base argent a cross paté of the first

The tower is probably a representation of the ruins of an Arab castle, formerly called al-Qala. It’s old enough that we don’t know exactly when it was built, but it’s referenced in an 872 document. The same document also notes that the area is densely wooded with stone pine trees that were used for construction and shipbuilding; I’d guess that’s why the arms include trees. The cross gules on a point argent seems like it could be a reference to the 68 or so years that the town spent under direct control of the Templars.

Romanian Great Union Day

Today marks the day that the Romanian Kingdom incorporated the territories of Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania, Banat, Crișana and Maramureș with the Kingdom of Romania in 1918. Technically, Bessarabia and Bukovina had been incorporated earlier that year, but December 1st brought the most new territory to the crown. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that many of those territories are represented in the arms – and there are a lot of them, so let’s get started!

Romania

Blazon: Azure an eagle displayed with wings inverted, in its beak a passion cross patonce at foot or, armed gules, in the dexter talon a sword and in the sinister a sceptre argent, crowned with the Steel Crown proper, overall an escutcheon per quarterly I azure an eagle displayed with wings inverted, in its beak a passion cross patonce at foot or armed gules between in chief a sun in splendor and a crescent increscent of the second (Wallachia); II gules an auroch’s head caboshed between in base a cinquefoil and a crescent decrescent argent, in chief between the horns a molet of five points or (Moldova); III gules issuant from water in base azure a bridge of two arches embattled, thereon a demi-lion rampant or brandishing a sabre proper (Oltenia and Banat); IV per bar gules azure and or, issuant therefrom an eagle displayed argent between in chief a sun in splendor or and a crescent decrescent of the fourth, in base seven towers gules (Transylvania); pointé in base azure two dolphins urinant respectant or

Okay. Obviously, there is a lot going on here, but the major motif (repeated twice) is the eagle or. The eagle charge is, unsurprisingly, derived from the Romans and also featured in the regional arms of Wallachia, although there it was sable (and thus somewhat closer to the Holy Roman Empire’s eagle). Wallachia’s eagle also has the cross in its beak – and exactly what that cross is is a whole separate conversation. I’ve gone off the depiction in the larger eagle, but it also shows up as a simple passion cross, a cross paté, etc. It’s described in some places as an “Orthodox cross,” but that phrasing doesn’t have any real heraldic meaning, and should not be confused with the double-barred cross patriarchal of the Russian Orthodox church. The eagle, cross, sun, and moon have been consistent Wallachian symbology since at least the Middle Ages. As one of the two principalities in the United Principalities that later became Romania in 1866, I suppose it’s only fair that Wallachia get double representation, though I suspect the Roman associations are really why it’s the larger background charge.

In the next quarter of the smaller escutcheon are the arms of Moldova (or, formerly, Moldavia), which have also remained pretty much exactly the same since it was a voivodeship. It looks like a bull’s head, and I was perfectly ready to blazon it as a bull’s head, but all the sources I found were very insistent about calling it an aurochs instead. The aurochs and the star have their own little legend, which holds that Dragoș, the first voivode of Moldavia, chased a bull marked with a star from his native Maramureș all the way to a river, where he killed it with the help of his hunting dog, Molda. Molda’s accomplishment resulted in both the river and later the principality receiving her name.

Banat and Oltenia appear to come as a unit, and certainly their symbols are very similar; Banat just used a lion, while Oltenia’s lion bore a sabre and appeared over Trajan’s Bridge. I guess it makes sense to combine those two, and I really like Oltenia’s arms, but I do feel a bit bad for Banat. I also just want to mention Dobruja, briefly, before we get into Transylvania; I don’t think there’s any deeper meaning behind the dolphins besides “this part’s next to the sea.”

Okay, Transylvania! Which I have covered on this blog before, but not in detail. They were granted in 1765 by the Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa. The towers, sun, and moon are all pretty straightforward; the towers represent the ethnic Saxons, and the sun and moon, ancient grave symbols, represent the Székelys. The eagle is less clear; there are a number of very, very old coats, seals, and symbols that are connected to Transylvania and feature an eagle, but it’s unclear whether these were truly heraldic. It could be a version of the Polish eagle, or it could be intended to represent the Hungarian ethnic group.

The Romanian quarters were first established in 1866, though some were swapped out for others as their territorial dominion changed. In 1948, the Soviet Union did in fact grant Romania its own emblem, and it was so terrible that the symbol of resistance to communism was the USSR Romanian flag with the emblem literally cut out. (Yes, I know there are probably many more reasons that “empty flag” was adopted besides the visual nails-on-a-chalkboard of Soviet heraldry, but I like to think that was part of it.) The overall arms were adopted in almost their present form after the fall of communism in 1992, and the steel crown was added in 2016.

Arms of Villanueva de la Fuente, Spain

Villanueva de la Fuente

Granted 1985

Blazon: Per fess, I per pale argent a cross of Santiago gules and azure a croizer in bend surmounted by a mitre or, II of the last a walled town of the third, pointé in base of the first two bars wavy of the third

Unfortunately, I can’t find any information about these arms, but it’s pretty obvious to me that the base half is canting arms – the name translates to “new town on the river,” and bars wavy are a very traditional method of representing water or rivers. The Order of Santiago did control the town from around 1213 through 1243, which would explain the cross. I’m not entirely sure about the episcopal regalia; it does seem like a bishopric was established in the area under the Visigoths, but I’m not entirely certain about that.

Arms of Socuéllamos, Spain

Socuellamos
Granted 1955

Blazon: Per pale vert a tower or windowed azure and of the last a cross of Santiago gules fimbriated argent, pointé in base of the fourth a bunch of grapes of the second slipped of the first

The tower is a reference to Torre de Vejezate, a local abandoned town. The cross of Santiago reflects the fact that the land previously belonged to the Order of Santiago, and the grapes refer to the traditional industry of winemaking.

Arms of San Carlos del Valle, Spain

San Carlos del Valle
Granted 1995

Blazon: Per pale azure a representation of the local church of Christ of the Valley argent and of the last a cross of Santiago gules, pointé in base or a bunch of grapes slipped and leaved vert

The characteristic church featured on the arms was built in the sixteenth century on the site of the former hermitage of St. Helena, where (according to legend) Christ appeared in the form of a strange traveler.